Without renewed protections, a spike in evictions is on the horizon.Getty
A housing crisis draws nearer every day: up to 40 million people -- 40% of US renters, according to Statista -- are predicted to be at risk of eviction in the next several months. That's 12% of the US population. New jobless claims have hovered around the 1 million mark every week since March, a number the Labor Department tracks. The figure underscores how growing unemployment and lapsed government benefits could plunge the country into a deeper recession and create an eviction crisis.
States may still offer temporary emergency eviction protections, but some, like California's eviction stay, end soon.
Adding to the confusion is President Donald Trump's executive order, which isn't a renewal of eviction protections, as the text (excerpted below) makes clear. It isn't known exactly when -- or in what form -- a new eviction moratorium would take place, now that the eviction ban guaranteed by the CARES Act has expired (on July 31).
In addition to lapsed housing protections, three out of 10 laid-off Americans also face food insecurity. Without the certainty of a future stimulus package, the continuation of talks on Capitol Hill or more fleshed-out directives from the White House, the situation could worsen.
Here's everything we know about what the president's eviction order does and doesn't cover, the one protection that remains for you until Aug. 24, and how to find help if you're facing a potential eviction. We update this story often.
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Does Trump's executive order stop evictions? No.
The wording of the executive order acknowledges that the White House is aware evictions could spike:
The CARES Act imposed a temporary moratorium on evictions of certain renters subject to certain conditions. That moratorium has now expired, and there is a significant risk that this will set off an abnormally large wave of evictions.
It then promises to look into the matter (emphasis ours):
The Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Director of CDC shall consider whether any measures temporarily halting residential evictions of any tenants for failure to pay rent are reasonably necessary to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 from one State or possession into any other State or possession.
The order stipulates four steps of government action, none of which would stop evictions immediately:Investigate whether it's necessary to stop evictions as a way to help keep the coronavirus from spreading, presumably from people crossing state lines looking for new housing, sharing housing with others or moving into shelters. Identify ways to give renters and landlords financial assistance."Encouraging and providing assistance" to various organizations or individuals to help guard against evictions and foreclosures, though it isn't clear if this includes financial help. Review existing "authorities and resources," which could include government programs.
Although the order encourages the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to explore ways to fund financial assistance to tenants who are behind on rent, the executive order stops short of setting up such a fund or banning evictions. In other words, without further action from the Trump administration or Congress, nothing has really changed -- yet.
Worried about making rent? You're not alone.Josh Miller/CNET
What happens now that eviction protections are over?
Eviction notices are now legally allowed to proceed and evictions can begin starting Aug. 24. Some landlords have already reportedly filed for evictions in violation of the law, even before the protection ended. Some states have extended eviction protections for some renters, though coverage may be uneven.
If you live in a property covered by the CARES Act, landlords can now legally ask you to leave and start charging late fees, but the soonest they can legally file an eviction to force you to leave is Aug. 24. As long as Congress passes an extension or renewal of the eviction ban before Aug. 24, tenants who are behind on rent should continue to be temporarily able to remain in their homes.
The CARES Act eviction safeguard is thought to have helped as many as 23 million US families (roughly one-third of all US renters) stay in their homes during the coronavirus recession. As of July 31, every benefit provided by the CARES Act has now ended, including the eviction moratorium.
That means tenants who can't pay rent can be legally made to leave their rental properties. Congress has stalled on another stimulus bill that might renew some protections and will likely include a second stimulus check, but there's new hope that talks may resume this week.
Regardless, rent was due Aug. 1. and will be again Sept. 1, with no federal unemployment enhancement or rent protections in place.
It's still unclear how much cash Congress plans to put in American's pockets with a second stimulus bill, only that another round of direct payments is likely to be included.Angela Lang/CNET
Does the Aug. 24 eviction stay apply to you?
The CARES Act protected only about one-third of rental properties in the US, specifically those that received federal funds or were financed under a federal program like Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. It isn't clear if Congress will broaden the scope of properties covered under law.
Here's where things get tricky: If your landlord owns your building outright or financed the property without going through the handful of federal programs that guarantee most mortgages and doesn't get any government assistance like Section 8 money, the CARES Act didn't apply to your situation.
For tenants of single-family homes or of apartments in buildings with four or fewer units, it's going to be tough to find out whether this or a similar law applies to you. But if you live in a multifamily property with five or more units, there's a tool published by the National Low Income Housing Coalition that's designed to tell you if the property where you live was covered under the CARES Act. Try entering your ZIP code and scrolling through the list of properties looking for yours. (Searching within the page didn't work for us.)
There's one more wrinkle, however. Just because your building isn't listed doesn't necessarily mean it wasn't covered -- the tool only tracks properties with five or more units and it might not even cover all of those. So if you rent a single-family house or an apartment in a building with four or fewer units, it may not be listed even if the property fell under the CARES Act.
Now playing: Watch this: Stimulus Check Standoff
Find out the status of eviction protection in your state
Statewide eviction bans have mostly either already expired or will soon, many with no replacement in sight. Michigan, for example, let its eviction moratorium lapse, as have several other states. A handful of states never canceled evictions to begin with.
If you're seriously delinquent or know you will be soon, you may want to consult a lawyer to better understand how laws in your area apply to your situation. Legal Aid provides attorneys free of charge to qualified clients who need help with civil matters such as evictions -- you can locate the nearest Legal Aid office using this search tool.
Online tools that point you toward resources
DoNotPay offers a variety of legal services, including financial relief relating to the coronavirus pandemic.Screenshot by Dale Smith/CNET
211.org: This nonprofit connects those in need of help with essential community services in their area. It's recently set up a portal for pandemic assistance. If you're having trouble with your food budget or paying your housing bills, you can use 211.org's online search tool or dial 211 on your phone to talk to someone who can try to help.
DoNotPay: The online legal services chatbot has a coronavirus financial relief tool it says will identify which of the laws, ordinances and measures covering rent and evictions apply to you based on your location.
How to ask your landlord for a reduction or extension
In almost all instances it's probably best to work out an arrangement with your landlord or leasing agency, if at all possible. Although some landlords have reportedly reacted to the pandemic by putting even more pressure on tenants to pay up, other landlords have risen to the occasion, some going so far as to stop collecting rent payments for a period of time.
If you don't have enough money to cover rent, first see what protections are available in your area, then consider trying to work out a payment arrangement with your landlord.Sarah Tew/CNET
It may be worth approaching your landlord to see if you can pay less rent in the coming months, or spread payments for the next couple of months' rent out over the next year. As renters across the country organize rent strikes and more community leaders push for rent freezes, your landlord may prefer such an arrangement to not receiving any rent at all.
Just be wary of landlords who make excessive demands. For example, some have asked tenants to turn over their $1,200 stimulus check or any money received from charity as a condition for not filing an eviction order. Don't agree to unreasonable conditions or terms you won't be able to meet, especially if your city or state has enacted protections against such arrangements.
If you're concerned about your financial situation these days, consider these 28 ways to save money during the pandemic and get some free financial advice from these six organizations. And here are some money basics that might be able to help you through a tough time.